The political discussion is fast moving towards the 2016 presidential race and who we might as a country desire as the next president and who can lead us into a new decade.
Simultaneously, numerous candidates on both sides of the aisle are beginning to emerge as they test the waters with the public and the media (Gov. Chris Christie's win in New Jersey is the latest manifestation of this), as well as a precipitous drop of President Obama's approval rating over the last year, where it now approaches President Bush's post-Katrina levels. This combination is causing a concerted look at the next big race.
Let's pause though a moment and stop analyzing each individual candidate and grapple with what values the country might be eyeing in our next leader. Not what policies specifically, or personal attributes, but the values that might connect with the public for a candidate in the campaign ahead. More importantly, after many voters had great hope in the last two presidents and ended up disappointed and a bit disillusioned, it is a good time to reflect on the values we might be looking for.
Here is my list of seven that I think the next president, or really any leader, needs to embody at this time:
1. Authenticity. Many have talked about this before, and, from my vantage point, is really the table stakes for every other value needed in a leader. Without a sense of authenticity, and genuineness in word and action, all the rest of the values will just come across as marketing or a sales job. Authenticity is conveyed in two ways: the leader knows deep down who they are and shows this on a day-to-day basis, and we as voters trust that our connection with the leader is clear and real and not the product of some communications strategy.
2. Strength. We definitely need this value in our president. But it shouldn't be the false bravado of someone who decides without listening, goes to war without considering all the consequences, or fights with the opposition because they think they have all the answers. It needs to be a strength born from faith and a belief that good conquers evil, and that kindness and consensus is more powerful than going alone. A strength that understands that weakness isn't in admitting a mistake and learning and growing, but that in that admission is where real strength can be found.
3. Integrity. The value that shows up as telling the truth, is conveyed in a sense of transparency and openness, and a willingness to be open and honest about decisions and management. This comes from the belief that the American public and the media can be trusted with the truth, and can be involved in the process. The enemy of good government or good living isn't in the telling of what is going on, it is in the hiding of secrets and real motives. Spinning a story or a narrative and shading the truth, even though advocated by many so-called communication experts, isn't a successful path to governing or leading.